A Pleasant Result from Fuldapocalypse

So, after a few months of reviews on Fuldapocalypse, I can say it’s helped me a lot. It’s made me realize I was looking at WWIII and military fiction in too narrow a light beforehand, and my resulting broadening of scope has been very good for me, and (I hope) very good for the blog as well.

The kind of impression I had going into the blog was that I’d be reviewing on a pretty narrow spectrum, with the sort of Hackett-style more pseudo-textbook on one end and the Chieftains/Team Yankee style story on the other. And most of my reviews still fall at least somewhat into that category.

But I think two things have influenced me more than just a simple bean count of what reviews were “conventional” World War III fiction and which ones were not. The first is that when it comes to me looking for new stories, as opposed to existing ones, I’ve been steering myself away from stuff that appears too cliche and Hackett-knockoff-y. Is reading something that’s going to be dry and infodumpy and then saying it’s dry and infodumpy really going to be productive or enjoyable to me or a reader? Especially if I do it several times in a row?

The second is the more pleasant surprise I’ve gotten, and that’s that moving away from internet, I’ve seen more characterization and more plot/setting diversity even in the ones I’ve already read. Granted, I had low expectations, but still. There’s that, and then there’s some of the stories moving outside the narrow corridor acting as a “springboard” of sorts for me to read even better and more different cheap thrillers.

So Fuldapocalypse has helped reinvigorate my interest in a genre I thought I knew, explore subgenres I didn’t, and made me rethink some of my critiques. I hope my readers have found it just as fulfilling.

 

Why I Liked Them At Fuldapocalypse

So I’m very critical even of things I like. The problem is that this can frequently come across as too negative. Because of this, and because I wanted to shake things up so that my formula wouldn’t become a pit, I decided to do an experiment on Fuldapocalypse. I’d take three books I love and talk in some detail about the positive and only the positive effects.

It’s here , and while it was a little challenging to write, it was also very, very fun and much-needed practice in me expanding on positive, as opposed to negative, critique.

Reading Red Army

So I read Ralph Peters’ Red Army, one of the fewer classic World War III novels I hadn’t read yet. A part of me doesn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth. This is better-written than many of its contemporaries and well-intended. It isn’t just the grit of the battles that works, but how Peters, unlike so many other writers in the genre, goes light on the technical terminology. It still has a little too much viewpoint-hopping, but flows well. In that, I’m reminded of Team Yankee doing a similar thing, and both books are good “counters” to each other[1].

However, I still have some criticism. A lot of the characterization is done through telling and not showing, and while the viewpoint hopping is smoothed over, it still exists. Also, I think the two main parts of the book are at cross-purposes. The intent is to tell a ground-eye-view story that humanizes the Soviets and a cautionary tale of how NATO could lose. They don’t quite gel, and a lot of the high-level viewpoint characters are infodumpers that make it a little ham-fisted.

The last major comment I have is that the book has a lot of its power lost when read by a history enthusiast several decades later. All the “classics” have this issue too, and it’s not the fault of their writers. But the big “punch” of this is a softball to someone who already knew about the issues that plagued NATO for its entire Cold War existence that the book brings up.

But this is still a worthy Cold War Hot novel that any enthusiast should pick up. I still recommend it.

[1]IE, two good but fundamentally different Cold War novels, idealized American vs. ideal Soviet, star-spangled spectacular American win vs. gritty Soviet win. The readable but horribly erratic Chieftains (let’s say I’ll just be talking more about that book later) can’t quite serve as Coyle’s foil. This can.

Flash Fiction Reviews, Vol 1

All right, time to launch a set of rapid-fire fiction reviews. Two paragraphs per book at most.

I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. The military thriller genre can always use some outside perspectives. Sadly, and this more the fault of my expectations than the actual book itself, it ended up as a routine romantic suspense novel. Romantic suspense has always been an awkward genre, in my opinion, the inverse of adding a clunky romance to an otherwise pure action story.

Still, the book is well-written for what it is, and it just was me expecting a genre I wanted rather than the genre the book ended up being. Recommended if you like romance or romantic suspense.

This is the work that (at least partially) kicked off Sea Lion Press, and has the divergence that the conspiracy theory of Harold Wilson being a Soviet agent was true, leading to the already unstable scene of the 70s getting overloaded in a chaotic romp. While not perfect (it gets a little too “inside baseball for enthusiasts of 70s British politics, and a lot of the scenes with Wilson himself are too goofy), it nonetheless avoids almost all of the pitfalls a lot of alternate history has.

Namely, it’s a proper story, not a “get right to the good stuff in a six paragraph infodump” shortcut. It’s also an example of using research to help a story rather than using the story to show off the research. And by choosing an “implausible” divergence, it makes the reseach good anyway. Highly recommended.

This is a short World War III tank story featuring the often-underappreciated Bundeswehr. Smith struggles to overcome his wargaming “I must list everything” detail, but he makes a legitimate and good effort to make a proper story. The result was a good time-passer for me. It’s not a classic, but it doesn’t have to be. Recommended as a “cheap thriller”.

This is another short military fiction tale by a wargame designer. This is a good what-if to answer the ever-present “what if the Gulf War Iraqis were more compenent” question. It’s short and the main character is a little too Mary Sueish, but that’s understandable given the point the author is trying to make. Also recommended as a cheap thriller.

This is a terrible, wretched, creepy melodramatic fraud sold as a genuine World War II memoir. Even without historical inaccuracies, it’s a clear modern fake. The monstrous “Wehrabooism” (at one point the main character comes face to face with a literal ASIATIC HORDESMAN)  turns it from simply bad to creepy-bad.

The main character has the situational awareness to see huge tank battles, which always happen at close range in plain sight and always involve tanks and vehicles exploding and flying through the air in massive fireballs. The action is so over the top it becomes dull and predictable. Not recommended.